Noah and his big sister Emma
When Emma was in my preschool class we took a field trip to the Shriner’s Circus. That was back in the day when going on a field trip did not require volunteers to carry seat belt cutters, undergo certification, pounds of paperwork and an Act of Congress. I dearly miss sharing new experiences with children that comes from a going on a field trip. And the trip to the Shriner’s Circus had an unexpected moment that triggered a new pathway in my classroom. It happened like this…
Before the circus performance the lights went out and a big American flag was lowered. I had no idea that would happen, but no worries, I knew exactly what to do- stand tall and proud, put my hand over my heart, and sing our National Anthem. Everybody knows that… so I thought. I looked around and saw parents chatting away and children playing. I was horrified! I frantically dashed to each child, pulling off their ball caps and putting their little hands over their hearts. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person. Yes I was, because this was awful.
It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t know what to do when singing “The Star Spangled Banner”. My doesn’t-everybody-know-that frame of mind switched gears. This was a teaching moment looking at me right in the face. Emma to the rescue! She was the child who knew what to do and showed pride, even at the tender age of four.
Back at school, Emma showed the other children how to sing and how to stand. It was a start, but not nearly enough. I asked the children, “What is a star spangled banner?” No one knew. How can they learn to sing with pride if they have no idea what they’re singing for? They needed the backstory, and that is where my teaching took off: emergent curriculum at it’s best.
Emma’s Dad came to school to help the children learn about the American flag. We learned about Francis Scott Key watching the flag during battle to see who was winning. We began to sing other patriotic songs. To this day, “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” are classroom favorites. Some years ago Milly and the children made a God Bless America quilt that hangs in the Boston Fisher House. Thank you, Emma, for starting the ball of Patriotism rolling, many years ago.
Noah was the shy one. He had difficulty saying goodby to Mom and Dad when he arrived at school. All the hugs and reassurances in the world did little to help Noah. To make matters worse, he was not alone. Another little boy had the same struggle, and the two of them together often ignited many tears.
One day I pulled out my Autoharp. After all, music and singing are a universal pathway to the heart. In the words of Hans Christian Anderson, “where words fail, music speaks”. I needed words, as I was failing Noah. No, I needed music. And, it worked! The tears turned to sniffles, and then they stopped. Noah was fascinated with a real musical instrument. We sang and sang, and then we sang some more. The Autoharp became part of our daily routine. Noah was also curious how the strings actually worked. We discovered high and low sounds, and then we learned about vibration. A tuning fork and a dish of water became a favorite science experiment, especially with Noah.
Thus began my immersion in music. I brought real instruments into the classroom. I brought in my old record player and record albums. That was a huge hit, and today it still remains a classroom favorite. When we painted seriously, preparing for our annual Art Show, we listened to classical music for inspiration. It was wonderful, and still is to this day. Thank you, Noah, for bringing music into my classroom. I’m so glad it has become a part of your life.
Yes, there is a story behind each child. And, they always come back to visit. Noah now brings his music and instruments into the classroom. Emma has been both a volunteer and works in the summer. Those early beginnings have come full circle.